Nvidia is leading the charge with ray tracing last year and their implementation required the new generation Turing GPUs with dedicated Ray Tracing Cores, as seen in the GeForce RTX line.
However, at GDC 2019, we now see more solutions that do not require dedicated hardware use, like Crytek’s Neon Noir demo.
Microsoft’s DirectX 12 API now has DirectX Ray Tracing API, called DXR. This will enable ray tracing through use of normal GPU power. It also means that non-RTX cards from Turing (GTX 1660) and last-gen Pascal (GTX 1060 6GB and above) can run ray tracing.
DXR is to be supported for EA’s Frostbite engine, Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 and the Unity Engine, among others.
However, as Nvidia pointed out, there’s a significant performance difference with running DXR compared to having an RTX. So don’t expect all games to look super pretty or run well with ray tracing on. Plus, the ray tracing won’t look as good compared to an RTX card.
Still, at least there’s a possibility that this tech can be worked on without needing specialised (and right now, really expensive) GPUs to work. As more developers adopt real-time ray tracing, we may see more advancements on this front in the future.
DXR support for Pascal-based GTX GPUs will arrive in a driver update due out this April.